Monks House Papers: papers of Virginia Woolf and related papers of Leonard Woolf

Scope and Content

The groups within the main collection comprise:


Letters I Correspondence between Leonard and Virginia Woolf, 1912-1935

Letters II Correspondence of Leonard Woolf, 1911-1957

Letters III Correspondence of Virginia Woolf, 1903-1941


Manuscripts A: Biographical

Manuscripts B: Literary


Press-cuttings : Reviews by Virginia Woolf and reviews, etc. of her work, 1904-1967

Additions (40 as of June 2002) continue to be made to the collection as received from Monks House in 1973, both further correspondence of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and posthumous material relating to her.

Administrative / Biographical History

(Adeline) Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), novelist and critic, was born on 25 January 1882 in London, the second daughter of (Sir) Leslie Stephen. Too delicate for the rigours of regular school, she spent her childhood at her family's London house in Hyde Park Gate and country home at St. Ives in Cornwall. Her mother's death in 1895 precipitated the first of the nervous breakdowns which punctuated her life. Her father's death in 1904 was followed by another, but that was also the year of her first published work. After this Virginia, together with her sister Vanessa and her brother Adrian, settled in Gordon Square where they collected round them a group of brilliant young men whom their elder brother Thoby had got to know at Cambridge; notably Roger Fry, J. M. (later Lord) Keynes, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster, Leonard Woolf, and Clive Bell. Thus was inaugurated 'the Bloomsbury group'.

In 1912 she married Leonard Sidney Woolf (1880-1969). In 1914 she had another serious breakdown, and although after a year she recovered, for the rest of her life her husband saw to it that she lived very quietly. They lived partly in London and partly in Sussex, where in 1919 they purchased at Monks House, at Rodmell, near Lewes, East Sussex. It was during this period that her chief work was done and her fame established. Of her novels, Voyage Out appeared in 1915, Night and Day in 1919. They were in a relatively traditional form. Jacob's Room, in which Virginia Woolf's characteristic manner first fully revealed itself, came out in 1922, Mrs. Dalloway in 1925, To the Lighthouse in 1927, The Waves in 1931, and The Years in 1937. She also published two fantasies: Orlando (1928) and Flush (1933); two books of critical and biographical essays, The Common Reader (first series, 1925, second series, 1932); a biography of Roger Fry (1940), and two gracefully written feminist pamphlets, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938). She also took an active part in the management of the Hogarth Press which was founded by her and her husband in 1917.

In 1939 the Woolfs moved to Mecklenburgh Square where they remained until the bombing of 1940, after which they retired to Rodmell. There in 1941 Virginia Woolf's nervous system suffered its final collapse under the strain of the war, and she drowned herself on 28 March.

(Based on the article by David Cecil in Dictionary of National Biography 1941-50, first published in 1959.)

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Mrs Trekkie Parsons (Majorie Tulip Ritchie Parsons, 1902-1995), Leonard Woolf's heir, 1973


Prepared by John Farrant, July 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner. The Society of Authors, on behalf of the owners, administers the copyright in the works of Virginia Woolf. The University of Sussex is the owner of the copyright in the works of Leonard Woolf.

Custodial History

This collection (excluding the 'Additions') was part of the papers which Virginia and Leonard Woolf accumulated at Monks House, Rodmell, their Sussex home from 1919 and from 1940 their only home. It includes original letters from Virginia Woolf, which presumably were recovered from recipients or their heirs, and typescript copies and photocopies of letters to and from her.

Leonard Woolf made the collection available to Quentin Bell for his use in writing the biography of Virginia Woolf. The order of the papers was established by Quentin Bell's wife, Anne Olivier Bell who acted as his researcher. The biography was published in 1972. In 1973 Leonard Woolf's heir, Mrs Trekkie Parsons deposited the papers in the University of Sussex Library, joining the Leonard Woolf Papers (SxMs 13) which she had deposited in 1969. She subsequently presented both collections to the University.

Related Material

The other main collection at the University of Sussex which came from Monks House is SxMs 13, the Leonard Woolf Papers. Further biographical and literary manuscripts of Virginia Woolf which were at Monks House are now in the Berg Library, New York. Other collections at the University of Sussex relating to the Woolfs and to the 'Bloomsbury group' are:

SxMs 56 Charleston Papers (Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and friends)

SxMs 58 Birrell Papers (Francis Birrell)

SxMs 61 Nicolson Papers (Nigel Nicholson)

SxMs 70 A. O. Bell Papers (Anne Olivier Bell)


The collection has been used extensively in Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf: a biography, 2 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1972), and Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (London: Chatto&Windus, 1996).

Items in the collection have been published in:

Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann (eds), The Letters of Virginia Woolf, 6 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1975-80);

Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie (eds), The diary of Virginia Woolf, 5 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1977-84);

Louise A. Desalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska (eds), The letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf (London: Hutchinson, 1984).

Geographical Names